(The other) Hank’s recommendations 10/15/13

Hank_Hoffman_Picks_Image_sketch_Web(THE OTHER) HANK’S PICKS 10/15/13

Journalist Jeremy Scahill is not the kind of reporter who sits back in the hotel and phones in his stories based on anonymous quotes from official sources. Scahill—a war reporter who has covered conflicts in Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and the Middle East—is not averse to challenging the powers-that-be. Author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army, Scahill has more recently been at the forefront of reporting on the so-called War on Terror and how government secrecy and new technology are combining to outrun Constitutional constraints on the President’s power to make war.

In the documentary DIRTY WARS, Scahill eschews the shelter of embedded journalism. Risking his personal safety, he reports on how night raids in Afghanistan, drone strikes and targeted killings in countries with which the United States is not legally at war reveal a dark truth: The United States government is unconstrained by the strictures of international law and the Constitution.

Dirty Wars, directed by Richard Rowley, plays as a noirish thriller as it follows Scahill into dangerous, lawless districts of Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. Unwilling to accept the official story at face value, Scahill interviews the relatives of drone strike and night raid victims. In the course of his reporting he exposes the operations of the Joint Special Operations Command, in essence a secret army operating globally, and challenges the legitimacy of the President’s expanding “kill list.”

New Releases 10/15/13

Top Hits
The Heat (comedy, Melissa McCarthy. Rotten Tomatoes: 65%. Metacritic: 60. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The high-concept description of The Heat is that it’s a cop-buddy movie with women, which can be seen as something of an anomaly, or even a breakthrough, in this age of testosterone-stupefied cinema. Directed by Paul Feig, whose Bridesmaids was a milestone in the emergence of uninhibited, woman-driven nonromantic comedy, “The Heat” wears its feminism lightly and proudly, though not always comfortably.” Read more…)

Pacific Rim (sci-fi action, Charlie Hunnam. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 64. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The director, Guillermo del Toro [who wrote the script with Travis Beacham], is an unabashed genre enthusiast and a feverish inventor of fantastical worlds, enchanted by the visual and symbolic power of monsters and intoxicated by his own imagination. It is true that he has employed that imagination to more memorable effect in other movies, notably the wonderful Hellboy pictures and the shattering Spanish Civil War horror-allegories Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone. Admirers of those films may find this one crude and overscale by comparison. Still, Pacific Rim, with its carefree blend of silliness and solemnity, is clearly the product of an ingenious and playful pop sensibility.” Read more…)

Somebody Up There Likes Me (indie comedy, Nick Offerman. Rotten Tomatoes: 68%. Metacritic: 58. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “The film, the latest from Bob Byington [Harmony and Me], features the same mumbly, schlumpy young man who inhabits a lot of projects like this that end up with the ‘indie’ label. This one is Max [Keith Poulson], who exhibits little ambition, doesn’t react when women do him wrong, treats people indifferently and in general seems to be purposely navigating the world in such a way as to have no impact.” Read more…)

A Hijacking (Denmark, action, Pilou Asbaek. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 82. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In A Hijacking, his assured, intense second feature, the Danish director Tobias Lindholm turns tedium and frustration into agonizing suspense. Unfolding over a span of weary, stressful months, its action mainly confined to the below-deck parts of a cargo ship and a suite of sterile corporate offices in Denmark, the film is at once a probing psychological case study and a ripped-from-the-headlines exploration of modern sea piracy.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
The Heat
Pacific Rim

New Foreign
A Hijacking (Denmark, action, Pilou Asbaek, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 82.From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “In A Hijacking, his assured, intense second feature, the Danish director Tobias Lindholm turns tedium and frustration into agonizing suspense. Unfolding over a span of weary, stressful months, its action mainly confined to the below-deck parts of a cargo ship and a suite of sterile corporate offices in Denmark, the film is at once a probing psychological case study and a ripped-from-the-headlines exploration of modern sea piracy.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The Big Parade (1925, King Vidor-directed silent war drama, John Gilbert. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Mordaunt Hall’s 1925 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “An eloquent pictorial epic of the World War was presented last night at the Astor Theatre before a sophisticated gathering that was intermittently stirred to laughter and tears. This powerful photodrama is entitled The Big Parade, having been converted to the screen from a story by Laurence Stallings, co-author of What Price Glory, and directed by King Vidor. It is a subject so compelling and realistic that one feels impelled to approach a review of it with all the respect it deserves, for as a motion picture it is something beyond the fondest dreams of most people.” Read more…
This past weekend, Dave Kehr reviewed the new release in the New York Times. Noting the beauty of the transfer from the original negative, Kehr writes: “At this moment, there’s probably no better way of dispelling the tiresome myth that silent films were technically and dramatically crude than by directing skeptics to the radiant new Blu-ray of The Big Parade from Warner Home Video. Directed by King Vidor, and originally released by MGM in November 1925, this tale of three buddies caught up in what then was called the Great War was one of the most financially successful films of the silent era. It played for almost two years at the Astor Theater in New York and enjoyed similar success worldwide. Today, the film remains a heartfelt but shrewdly judged blend of comedy, romance, action and tragedy — a movie that perfectly embodies the classical Hollywood ideal of providing something to appeal to every member of what, in the 1920s, was a wide public still unsevered by demographic categories.” Read more…)

New Docs
Dirty Wars (foreign policy, war, Jeremy Scahill. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Stephen Holden’s Times review: “The thesis of Richard Rowley’s pessimistic, grimly outraged and utterly riveting documentary Dirty Wars is that America’s largely clandestine war on terror is now globally entrenched. Far from ending, the film argues, the fight has spread and begun breeding an increasing hatred of the United States that would have delighted Osama bin Laden. Because it is a hidden war, there are few Congressional restraints on how it is conducted. The bearer of these bad tidings, Jeremy Scahill, who wrote the movie with David Riker, is a national security correspondent for The Nation and the author of the recently published Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield and Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army. Mr. Scahill, 38, narrates the film like a hard-boiled gumshoe following leads in a film noir.” Read more…)

Audiobooks
“Atlantic” by Simon Winchester
“The Grand Design” by Stephen Hawking